Offseason Outlook: Seattle Mariners

Let’s take a look at the ’09 Mariners.  They’ll have their new GM in place in time for the free agency period.

C – Kenji Johjima – $8MM
C – Jamie Burke – $435K
1B – Bryan LaHair – $400K
2B – Jose Lopez – $1.6MM
SS – Yuniesky Betancourt – $2MM
3B – Adrian Beltre – $12MM
IF – Tug Hulett – $400K
IF –
LF –
CF – Wladimir Balentien – $400K
RF – Ichiro Suzuki – $17MM
OF – Jeremy Reed – $400K+
DH – Jeff Clement – $400K

SP – Felix Hernandez – $540K+
SP – Erik Bedard – $7MM+
SP – Jarrod Washburn – $10.35MM
SP – Carlos Silva – $11MM
SP – Brandon Morrow – $400K

RP – J.J. Putz – $5MM
RP – Sean Green – $405K
RP – Mark Lowe – $400K
RP – Roy Corcoran – $400K
RP – Miguel Batista – $9MM
RP – R.A. Dickey – $400K
RP – Ryan Rowland-Smith – $400K

The Mariners have about $88MM committed, plus arbitration raises for Reed, Hernandez, and Bedard.  Not 100% sure on Reed’s eligibility.  We’ll estimate an additional $7MM in arb raises, bringing commitments to around $95MM.  The Mariners entered the season with a $117.6MM payroll.  That might mean $20MM+ to spend if they plan on being competitive in ’09.

The Mariners are 12th in OBP and 11th in SLG.  They’re 12th in starters’ ERA and 9th in reliever ERA.

This could be a tough club to rebuild, with a three-year window for Felix and several hard-to-move contracts.  Will a new GM step in and try to assemble a worst-to-first team for ’09?

I’m not sure why, but Johjima became a problem this year.  The best baseball move would be to eat most of the $24MM he has coming and try Clement and Burke behind the plate.  Not much can be done with the low-OBP middle infield; at least Lopez has been decent.  It may be difficult to upgrade on Beltre, so they should keep him unless a total rebuild is in order.

In the outfield, it’d make sense to flip Ichiro and Balentien.  Offensively the Ms are looking to fill the easiest positions – first base, left field, and DH.  They could take draft picks for Ibanez and consider high-OBP free agents like Jason Giambi, Milton Bradley, Manny Ramirez, Brian Giles, Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, and Bobby Abreu.  Ideally, the Ms would dig up a high-OBP minor league veteran in the Dan Johnson/Brian Myrow/Josh Whitesell mold.

If you squint, you can envision a huge contract year from Bedard, more progress from Felix, and a breakout for Morrow.  The last two starting jobs could be determined on merit rather than salary, and a few bargain free agent pitchers could be signed as well.

Realistically the Mariners are not built to contend next year.  With Beltre, Washburn, Batista, and Bedard off the books after the ’09 season, it’d be logical to wait until then to remake the team (or trade these veterans for young players).  But the Mariners do have front-rotation pitching talent.  It would be interesting to see if a shrewd GM could wring a wild card out of it.

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